- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 25, 2008

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am a traumatic-brain-injury (TBI) soldier (part of the AW2) in a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU). I have approved-retirement orders for Aug. 1, 2009, and have less than 160 days until my terminal leave starts. Because the WTU here says there is nothing it can do for me and a return to duty is impossible - I have moderate TBI, vertigo, severe hearing loss in both ears, post-traumatic stress disorder, severe learning disabilities and short-term memory loss - it has decided to med-board me. I am worried that I won’t receive my retirement pay with the medical board even though I have retirement orders in hand. Any idea what I can do, or do I have no reason to worry?

Sincerely,

Staff Sgt. Stephen Seymour

Dear Steve:

My sources tell me that the military medical retirement system for disabled warriors is very complex; however, you do have a couple of options that could extend you to August and let you retire with what we assume is 20 years of service.

The first is to have the WTU recovery coordinator or the Physical Evaluation Board liaison officer (PEBLO) look at Department of Defense 1332.38 to see if you can be considered under the “presumption of fitness” rule, which would allow you to stay on active duty until August 2009.

The second is to request a Continue on Active Duty (COAD) status to get you to 20 years.

Both would allow you to continue to 20 years of service and make you eligible for either form of concurrent receipt (depending on whether some or all your disabilities are considered by the Army as combat-related); concurrent-retired-and-disability pay (CRDP) or combat-related special compensation (CRSC). However, if you end up being medically retired short of 20 years of service, you will be ineligible for CRDP. Because of a change in law in January of this year, however, you could still be eligible for CRSC.

Bottom line: I recommend you speak to a patient liaison, a military service officer or a veteran service officer associated with the WTU; share your concerns and desires; and request an explanation in specific detail of the probable outcomes of each process.

Shaft notes

The Sarge dittos U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue in his praise on President-elect Barack Obama’s selection of retired Gen. James L. Jones, president and CEO of the Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy, as national security adviser.

“Gen. Jones is an outstanding choice to serve as President Obama’s national security adviser. In these difficult times - as the country wages wars on two fronts and grapples with global terrorism - he is the right man for the job. His deep knowledge of global military, economic and geopolitical affairs will serve President Obama - and the entire country - well,” Mr. Donohue said.

“We know Gen. Jones will be a strong and effective advocate for energy security, global engagement and transatlantic cooperation - issues of tremendous importance to the business community. He understands the important role of global commerce, is a natural consensus builder, an honest broker, and deeply knowledgeable of foreign affairs.

“As soldier, statesman and diplomat, Gen. Jones has dedicated his life to advancing the goals, aspirations, and security of the United States of America. While we will miss his outstanding leadership of the Institute for 21st Century Energy, we are not surprised that he is willing to make the family sacrifices to once again answer his country’s call to duty. He has our gratitude, respect and best wishes for every success in his new position.”

Gen. Jones, a Marine’s Marine, recently took time out from his busy schedule to send a letter of recommendation to his alma mater, Georgetown University, for Mike Jernigan, a blinded young Operation Iraqi Freedom Marine veteran.

Kudos to Amherst College for its creation of a permanently endowed scholarship fund for veterans of the U.S. armed forces who are accepted by and enroll at the liberal-arts school. The Veterans Scholarship Fund, as it is called, will provide enough financial aid to cover the full demonstrated need of qualified former U.S. servicemen and servicewomen starting in the fall of 2009.

Former members of the armed forces who apply to and are accepted at Amherst must still complete the college’s financial-aid application process to determine their eligibility and need for federal, state and institutional funding. The hope is that those funds, combined with G.I. Bill benefits, will cover most - if not all - of the expenses for the veterans to attend the college, explained admissions dean Tom Parker.

“We are fully committed to providing the best education possible to those who are so worthy of it,” he said.

To find the most promising applicants, Amherst will tap into its extensive recruiting networks and develop new avenues as needed. The college will extend its efforts into areas of the country with large concentrations of veterans, including California, Florida, Virginia and the District. Well-qualified veterans who wish to transfer into Amherst from community colleges and other institutions also will receive strong consideration. Also, to welcome the veterans who ultimately enroll, Amherst will make an added variety of services and programs available to the students to assist them in their transition to life at college, Mr. Parker said.

The creation of the new fund builds on Amherst’s leadership in the areas of accessibility and affordability. The college was one of the first in the country to adopt a need-blind admission policy, and in April this year, the policy was extended to international students. Amherst also was the first college in the nation to eliminate loans for low-income students and one of the first to eliminate loans for every undergraduate - a program that was enacted this academic year.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, P.O. Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330, call 202/257-5446 or e-mail [email protected]

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